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Life As A Professional Aviation Photographer?  
User currently offlineANITIX87 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 3308 posts, RR: 13
Posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 3542 times:
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Hello, everyone.

I have been shooting aviation as a hobby for a few years now and I'd like to think I'm improving every time I go out. A great opportunity may present itself to me (hitting the ramp at a major airport), so I got to thinking about photography as a career.

I am currently at school for Mechanical Engineering but my passion for photography, and not to mention my passion for aviation, has been increasing exponentially for the last few years.

I was just wondering what the lifestyle is like. I know guys like Sam Chui post here and I was hoping to get some feedback from some of the best photogs in the industry. How do you get into this type of life-style? How do you establish yourself? Is it difficult? Are the benefits worth the costs and time it takes to become recognized? Is it possible to be something else by day, and an aviation photog by night? I ask the last question because I still plan on entering the engineering industry when I graduate, but would like to explore my options. I want to make the most out of my education while taking advantage of my passion for travel, photography, and aviation.

I realize this is a very vague thread, but my hopes are to see what the guys who give us the best shots think of life as a professional aviation photographer and to hear some great stories from your lives.

Thanks for taking the time to read this thread. Hopefully I'll one day join your ranks.

TIS


www.stellaryear.com: Canon EOS 50D, Canon EOS 5DMkII, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70 2.8L II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, Canon 100-4
24 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineN101AA From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 14 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 3530 times:

There are no professional aviation photographers on this site. There is no way one could make enough money doing this so that it is your sole income. There are some people that have a freakin ton of money which enables them to go places and visit areas otherwise restricted to normal people. Those people don't make money doing this...they spend a ton of money to get the shots they do get.

You can't make a living out of this however, especially when there are so many photographers willing to give their photos away for free.


User currently offlineTimdeGroot From Netherlands, joined Apr 2002, 3674 posts, RR: 64
Reply 2, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 3523 times:
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Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):
There are no professional aviation photographers on this site.

I know a few.

Tim



Alderman Exit
User currently offlineJeffM From United States of America, joined May 2005, 3266 posts, RR: 51
Reply 3, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3473 times:

LOL.... "ms. knowitall"  rotfl 

User currently offlineANITIX87 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 3308 posts, RR: 13
Reply 4, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3468 times:
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Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):

You can't make a living out of this however, especially when there are so many photographers willing to give their photos away for free.

Bitter much? Haha. Just kidding.

Quoting TimdeGroot (Reply 2):

I know a few.

As do I.

I'm just curious, that's all.

TIS



www.stellaryear.com: Canon EOS 50D, Canon EOS 5DMkII, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70 2.8L II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, Canon 100-4
User currently offlineMoose135 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 2350 posts, RR: 10
Reply 5, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3460 times:



Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):
There are no professional aviation photographers on this site.

Not only do I know a few, I've actually been out spotting with one at JFK a few times!



KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
User currently offlineNewark777 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 9348 posts, RR: 29
Reply 6, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 3449 times:



Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):

You can't make a living out of this however, especially when there are so many photographers willing to give their photos away for free.

If you are in a profession where you are trying to make a living off something others give away for free, maybe you should think about a better career. Or take better pictures.  Wink



Why grab a Heine when you can grab a Busch?
User currently offlineQANTAS077 From Australia, joined Jan 2004, 5861 posts, RR: 39
Reply 7, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 3443 times:



Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
I know guys like Sam Chui post here and I was hoping to get some feedback from some of the best photogs in the industry.

funny thing is that he works a normal 9-5 job in an office in Sydney...



a true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes, while everyone else believes the smile on your face.
User currently offlineWhappeh From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 1563 posts, RR: 2
Reply 8, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 3438 times:

You can always shoot weddings on a regular basis that way you're a professional photographer... just don't tell people that you shoot weddings full time. :P


-Travel now, journey infinitely.
User currently offlineFly747 From Canada, joined Apr 2005, 1497 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 3433 times:



Quoting JeffM (Reply 3):
LOL.... "ms. knowitall" rotfl

That was my reaction as well.
There are pros on this site alright, it doesn't necessarily mean that a.net is their primary income  Wink

Ivan


User currently offlineJawed From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 482 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 3405 times:

I am a professional aviation photographer. From my photos I make approximately $3.92 per week.

User currently offlineCalgaryBill From Canada, joined May 2006, 686 posts, RR: 5
Reply 11, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 3393 times:



Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
I am currently at school for Mechanical Engineering but my passion for photography, and not to mention my passion for aviation, has been increasing exponentially for the last few years.

Your background is similar to a friend of mine. He is an engineer as well (he specializes in oil field, but I'm not sure if it's chemical, process or mechanical) but he has a huge passion for photography. What to do? He combines the two - his specialization is photographing and video taping destructive and non-destructive testing (and the results of the testing) using all sorts of funky gear such as ultraviolet and infra-red. Not only does he put together video presentations and still image libraries of the lab's work, but he also uses the equipment for his personal projects - with his employer's support.

B


User currently offlineEadster From Australia, joined Jan 2005, 2216 posts, RR: 14
Reply 12, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 3392 times:

I know many professional photographers (not all aviation), and with the digital era here, they find it hard to make a living.

Just look through some sites like flickr etc. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can buy a digital camera and with a decent knowledge of editing, can produce just as good shots as pro's.

Even for someone that has no idea, they get a computer, read about photography, download programs, get some gear and they're away.

I would love too, but wouldn't give up my day job to do it.


User currently offlineJetmatt777 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 2816 posts, RR: 33
Reply 13, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 3381 times:



Quoting Jawed (Reply 10):
I am a professional aviation photographer. From my photos I make approximately $3.92 per week.

D'oh, I've only made 12 dollars total from 3 years of uploading. Well, with only 12 ordinary pics to choose from, it's kinda hard to make any cash from it  Wink

-Matt



No info
User currently offlineScottieprecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 1363 posts, RR: 11
Reply 14, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 3363 times:

I'm a first-year photojournalism major right now.. figured that'd be my best shot of actually being a professional aviation photographer. And if aviation doesn't work out, I'll get in with traditional journalism.
 crossfingers 

Mike


User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 3351 times:



Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):
There are no professional aviation photographers on this site. There is no way one could make enough money doing this so that it is your sole income. There are some people that have a freakin ton of money which enables them to go places and visit areas otherwise restricted to normal people. Those people don't make money doing this...they spend a ton of money to get the shots they do get.

Wow, tell us how you really feel. Again Tis asked some simple questions. He didn't need a lesson on the caste system here or a tirade of your professional jealousy.

Quoting Fly747 (Reply 9):
That was my reaction as well.
There are pros on this site alright, it doesn't necessarily mean that a.net is their primary income

I think this sums it up the best. You may be able to make a nice sum if you can hook up with a publication or something but for the most part you would need a steady source of income. Whether that be other forms of photography or another job all together.


User currently offlineQANTAS077 From Australia, joined Jan 2004, 5861 posts, RR: 39
Reply 16, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 3347 times:

hang out in LA and stick your lens in Spears face..that will make you a tidy sum of money.


a true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes, while everyone else believes the smile on your face.
User currently offlineZuluLima From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 332 posts, RR: 3
Reply 17, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3289 times:



Quoting Newark777 (Reply 6):
If you are in a profession where you are trying to make a living off something others give away for free, maybe you should think about a better career.

Seems to work ok for hookers, why not aviation photographers?  Big grin I've wondered about what it would be like to be a pro myself. I think I would rather it be a hobby than a necessity, which would undoubtedly end up being stressful and/or monotonous. People have a way of getting sick of their jobs, and it would be a shame for that to happen to something you enjoy so much. Plus, in order to get the shots that truly outrank the amateurs, you have to invest heavily in equipment and develop your craft over many years. I think you are on the right path with continuing education and a career in engineering. Let the photography become what it becomes, and if you can end up making some cash on the side, all the better.



I didn't get a 'Harumph' outta that guy!
User currently offlineCpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 37
Reply 18, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3282 times:



Quoting Eadster (Reply 12):
I know many professional photographers (not all aviation), and with the digital era here, they find it hard to make a living.

Just look through some sites like flickr etc. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can buy a digital camera and with a decent knowledge of editing, can produce just as good shots as pro's.

Even for someone that has no idea, they get a computer, read about photography, download programs, get some gear and they're away.

I would love too, but wouldn't give up my day job to do it.

I'd also love to do photography a lot more, but I know I'd miss the frantic pace of public service (yes, you did read right - and I wasn't being sarcastic).

But I also know that if I did photos for a living, it'd be a chore - where as now, it's the stress release.  Smile


User currently offlineINNflight From Switzerland, joined Apr 2004, 3767 posts, RR: 60
Reply 19, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 3257 times:



Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
How do you establish yourself?

Good pics, a ton of luck and loooooooots of contacts. You need to know people. A lot of them. Better be a nice person.

Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
Is it difficult?

How many do you know who are "totally" pro? I don't know more than 10 from the top of my head. Damn difficult I imagine, as in any profession I guess.

Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):
You can't make a living out of this however

LOL yeah right. Whatever.
---

Actually, I think the term professional "aviation" photographer is a bit misplaced.

They have to present a product in the best way possible, just that their product is a Falcon 2000 or an airline or whatever. Others shoot cosmetics or jewellery, these guys shoot planes.

I think it's not so much about the experience you get on sites like A.net or likewise ones. Your customer probably won't care whether you recognize the freighter next to their Challenger has the new whatever colour scheme. You have to shoot their product, that's all that counts.

I am not a "professional" by any means, but got (lucky? enough) to get an assignment for a bizjet operator. It's not the superfancy feeling I got, even though they paid well and arranged me anything I wanted.
I got up at 4:30am, drove 3hrs to that airport, did the shooting from 8am - 3pm and then drove home 3hrs again.
They needed the pictures on the next day, so I had dinner and started the post-processing on the images. I had them all done around 12:30am, went to bed and mailed them the DVD at 8am the next day.

I'd do (and actually will do) it again, and already look forward to that, because I truly love doing that, however it's not relaxing or fancy or whatever. It's hard work, and you better don't screw up Big grin
----

Now, if you wanna see a real pro..... www.airtoair.net



Jet Visuals
User currently offlineSoon7x7 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3151 times:



Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):

Yes you can...been doing it for twenty years, have travelled the world doing it and being paid to do it, own my own house, a sailboat, fly gliders and bug smashers and drive a paid for mercedes...make just enough to pay my bills...it can be very rough at times, has no respect for your personal life. If you offered me a six digit stock broker job in NY I'd turn it down to stay with what I'm doing...j


User currently offlineSoon7x7 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 3059 times:



Quoting N101AA (Reply 1):

PS...There exists on this site many, many talented photographers that consistently turn out outstanding images of PROFESSIONAL quality. Because they may not obtain revenue from it does not make them any less professional...But you are correct in that the fiscal investment prohibits most from elevating their hobby to a business. Think I know who you are referring too...anyone that can pay big bucks to hire choppers for fun and travel the world over BETTER come back with good photos. I can think of one individual...whose work I have only seen published twice. I can't imagine the overall investment in obtaining the few images I have seen. Can't imagine the RETURN has been worth it...j


User currently offlineDiezel From Netherlands, joined Oct 2002, 646 posts, RR: 11
Reply 22, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 2942 times:

I know at least one aviation photographer (if you would call it aviation) who makes money with doing what he loves.

He goes to air and car shows and takes pictures of the airplanes, cars and people which are there. He then hands them his business card which points them to a website where they can have a look at and order the pictures he took.

I don't know if its fun, but there are perks. Het gets to meet a lot of people which sometimes lead to contracts. At big shows where there is a lot of press present, the big camera brands like Nikon and Canon are usually present, selling their high-end equipment to the press photogs. He may often use that gear for a day, for free. He has a press card and is usually invited to the shows.

Is it fun? I dont know. It is probably just hard work with the usual ups and downs.


Roel.



Never be afraid of what you like. (Miles Davis)
User currently offlineViv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 28
Reply 23, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 2935 times:

It can be viable, but there are easier ways of making money.


Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently offlineSoon7x7 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (6 years 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 2882 times:



Quoting Viv (Reply 23):

Correct!...but if your passionate about it , it is worth it...however i'm sometime jealous of fed ex drivers, good pay, friendly, health benfits...don't have to be creative ...bla bla bla...j...grass is always GREENER!


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